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Pair of Large, Straits Chinese Couched Butterfly Wedding-Bed Ornaments

Straits Chinese Communities: Penang, Malacca or Singapore
circa 1900

width (each): 17cm, length: 11.4cm, combined weight: 52g



UK art market

This fine and large pair of butterfly ornaments were intended to decorate a Straits Chinese or peranakan wedding bed as fertility hangings.

Each of the two has a well-stuffed body, and fine, prominent wings covered in green velvet that is couched with thick, gold thread and applied gold metal spangles. Each has long pairs of antennae of fine, twisted silver-coloured wire.

The bodies of each have in gold couching prominent Chinese prosperity emblems.

Each is backed with orange cotton textile.

Pairs of butterflies were considered auspicious emblems. The first part of the Hokkien word for butterfly was a homonym for the Chinese word for good fortune. Plus, a pair was synonymous with the bridal couple.

Related examples are illustrated in Knapp (2012, p. 49), Cheah (2017, p. 145), Ho (1987, p. 30) and Ee (2008, p. 222, p. 249).

The pair here is in excellent condition.


Cheah, H.F, Nyonya Needlework: Embroidery and Beadwork in the Peranakan World, Asian Civilisations Museum, 2017.

Ee, R., et alPeranakan Museum A-Z Guide, Asian Civilisations Museum, 2008.

Ho, W.M., Straits Chinese Beadwork & Embroidery: A Collector’s Guide, Times Books International, 1987.

Knapp, R.G, The Peranakan Chinese Home: Art and Culture in Daily Life, Tuttle, 2012.

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